India is a representative democracy which has opted for a Parliamentary Form of Government. Under this system people elect their representatives both for the state legislatures as well as for Parliament through exercising their right to vote during periodic elections. Thus the success of democracy depends on successful election mechanism. For a healthy and functioning democracy it is essential that there is an independent institution to conduct and supervise the election procedure. Realizing this importance, the Constitution has provided for an independent Election Commission.
Composition of the Election Commission:
Art 324 provides for a Chief Election Commissioner to be appointed by the President He can also appoint any number of Election Commissioners. Since 1993, the Election Commission consists of a Chief Election Commissioner and two Election Commissioners. If the Election Commission is a multi-member body then the Chief Election Commissioner acts as the Chairman of the Election Commission. The decisions are arrived at by either consensus or majority in a multi-member Election Commission. There is a provision to appoint Regional Commissioners before each general election to Lok Sabha and State Assembly and before the general election and thereafter before each biennial election to the Legislative Council. The President appoints them in consultation with the Election Commission.
Removal of the CEC and Election Commissioners:
The CEC can be removed only on the same grounds and in the same manner as a judge of the Supreme Court. An Election Commissioner or a Regional Commissioner can be removed by the President only on the recommendation of the Chief Election Commissioner.
Functions of the Election Commission:
The Election Commission superintends, directs and controls the elections to Parliament, State Legislatures and Union Territories, Presidential and Vice-Presidential elections. In this regard, it performs the following functions:
(a) Preparation of electoral rolls.
(b) Conduct of elections.
(c) Counting of votes and declaration of results.
(d) To advise the President in regard to the questionwhether a Member of Parliament (Art. 103) or a State Legislature has become subject to any disqualification (Art. 192).
(e) To advice the President in the appointment ofRegional Commissioner.
The Constitution contains a bare outline of the law of election and the powers and functions of the Election Commission. The detailed provisions are contained in the following Acts:
The Presidential and Vice-Presidential Election Act, 1950.
The Representation of People Act, 1950.
The Representation of People Act, 1951.
The Delimitation Act, 1972.
Secular basis for electoral rolls (Art. 326):
The provisions discussed below are of general applications and apply to elections to the Parliament and the state legislatures.For every territorial constituency there will be one general electoral roll. No person shall be ineligible for inclusion in the electoral roll on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or any of them.
Adult suffrage (Art. 326):
Any person who is a citizen of India and who is 18 years of age (61st Amendment Act, 1988) is eligible to vote in Lok Sabha and State Assembly elections unless he is disqualified by a law. The common disqualification are based on unsoundness of mind, conviction for crime, corrupt practice, at an election etc. They are contained in the Representation of People Act
Election disputes (Art. 329):
Article 329 bars the interference of Courts in electoral matters. If a Delimitation Commission draws the boundaries of a territorial constituency it cannot be challenged in any Court of law.Article 329 also provides that no election to either House of Parliament or to a House of a State Legislature shall be called in question except by an election appropriate law. Since 1966, a High Court alone has the jurisdiction to hear an election petition. Appeal lies with the Supreme Court.
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